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VOL. 11 #22 -- Oct. 21 - Nov. 3, 2005
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Tourist News


Divulged at trade fair

Central American region is world’s
fastest- growing travel market

The creation of a single visa for Central American travelers, the frequency of international flights between Europe and Central America, and the marketing of the region in the Old World were some of the topics addressed by approximately 400 tourist wholesalers during the Central American Travel Market, held October 9-13 at Panama City’s Atlapa Convention Center.

Organized by the Panama Government Tourist Bureau (IPAT) and Panama’s Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR) the event is clear evidence of Panama’s move towards joining the rest of Central America in promoting the region as a single tourist destination. Due to historic and cultural reasons, Panama has always considered itself a "separate entity" from the other five Central American republics.

From left to right: Thiery de Pierrefeu (representing Honduras); Rodrigo Castro, Tourism Minister of Costa Rica; María N. Rivas (President pro-tempore of the Central American Tourism Bureau); Rubén Blades (Toruism Minister of Panama); Jaime Campusano (CAMTUR); Erica de Rivera, President of the Central American Tourism Agency; and Angela San Miguel.

The visiting group of industry members, which included the Tourism Ministers of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, had a tight agenda of conferences and meetings, which ended with a series of field trips to Panama’s main tourist destinations.

According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Central America’s travel-and-leisure industry is the world’s fastest growing, with a 16% increase in 2004, which represents an injection of 4.2 billion dollars into the regional economy.

A dance spectacle in hoor of the fair's participants.

Hotel association to launch
guest insurance coverage

Hotel Melia Panama Canal, in the province of Colón. The proposed hotel insurance plan offers a wide range of benefits for the growing number of visitors in Panama.

With a view to promoting Panama as an even safer destination, APATEL (The Panamanian Hotel Association) is hoping to initiate free insurance coverage for each guest who registers in one of its member hotels.

The premium will cost $2.00 per guest night and could be included in the tarrif as value added to the services of the hotel.

Insurance would cover medical costs for accident or illness, medical transport, re-patriation of remains, hospitalization after accident, loss of baggage, accidental death, loss of limb or total incapacity.

It excludes injuries caused by acts of terrorism, alcohol, drugs, nuclear biological or chemical warfare, charter or private flights, any injury caused by motor cycle or any motorized transport whether land, sea or air, diving, hill-climbing, mountaineering, horseback riding, martial arts, river rafting or any other dangerous sport.

According to APATEL president, Cesar Tribaldos, the proposed insurance policy would not only protect guests and give them peace of mind but also give more security to hotels who offer the service.

He added that although guests may have medical insurance back home, it does not usually cover accidents or illness abroad.


Old Quarter vs. UNESCO?

Unesco, the United Nations Cultural Organization, is not satisfied with the progress being made in the restoration of buildings in Casco Viejo, Panama City’s Old Quarter, and has warned that the area could lose its "World Heritage" category.

Owners of buildings have given as a reason for delay, the legal difficulties of dealing with squatters. All the organizations involved – the Proprieters Association, the local authority, the Ministry of Housing and the Oficina del Casco Antiguo have now agreed that the squatters must be evicted.


Focus Publications and IPAT
promote Panama in Venezuela

Two tourists at the fair's Panama stand posing with The Visitor.

Throughout this year, the Panama Government Tourist Bureau (IPAT) has been very active in the international promotion of Panama by sending delegations to foreign tourism fairs and organizing "Caravanas" –business trips coordinated with members of the private sector.

The most recent international activity in this regard took place in Venezuela, a country which, just like Panama, is starting to discover its tourist potential. A small delegation from the private sector accompanied Mr. Omar Ching, head of IPAT’s International Marketing Department, to FITCAR, Venezuela’s first major international tourism fair, which took place October 5-9 at Caracas’ La Carlota air base.

Approximately 347,000 persons visited the 36 international exhibits of the event, which focused on Venezuela’s indigenous cultures.

Focus Publications, the parent company of The Visitor and the Focus on Panama guide, was present at the fair, distributing hundreds of copies of both publications. This year, The Visitor and Focus were also present at major events in Spain, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Over 300,000 people visited Venezuela's FITCAR tourism fair.

He arrives on Nov. 6

Bush to address regional democracy,
trade relations with Panama

U.S. President George W. Bush will visit the Isthmus on November 6. The official visit is a response to an invitation made by Martín Torrijos, president of Panama, earlier this year, although Bush's 24-hour stop in the Panamanian capital is part of a programmed tour of South America.

The progress of democracy in the region, and the war against drug trafficking and organized crime will be some of the main topics of the Torrijos-Bush meetings, although the free trade agreement between the two countries (which has been at a standstill since early this year) will also be addressed, as well as the security of the Panama Canal (recent reports suggests that the famous waterway could be a posible target of Middle Eastern extremist groups).

George W. Bush will be the seventh U.S. President to visit Isthmian soil in the last one hundred years. His father, George H. Bush, was the last to visit, back in the 1990's. Others before him were Jimmy Carter (1979's), Dwight Eisenhower (1950's), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1930's), William H. Taft and Teddy Roosevelt (1904-1906).


Latin America as Baby Boomer
Retirement Home

As the Baby Boomers prepare for retirement, the prospective costs to be extracted of the Social Security and Medicare programs may leave Americans feeling "like doing what the old urban myth says the Inuit do: Ship the old folks out on the ice floes," wrote Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a September 24 syndicated op-ed column. As a "warm and loving alternative" to this cold-hearted approach, Mead recommends the following: "Send the old people to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean."

The generation preceding the boomers had bone-deep memories of the Depression, attested by their austere economic habits. The boomers, by way of contrast, have a negligible household savings rate and a huge debt overhang. "Some boomers not only won’t be able to afford the retirement they dream of," writes Mead, "many won’t even be able to afford the retirement they fear."

"Don’t underestimate the economic wisdom of migration," Mead advises. "An income that can barely cover a double-wide in Florida can swing a condo south of the border," he notes.

The federal government "should smooth the path for seniors looking to retire abroad," by expanding Medicare coverage to include foreign healthcare providers, creating retirement agreements with neighboring countries, and otherwise knitting our entitlement system with that of Mexico and other Latin American countries, argues Mead.

"This is not a Democratic or a Republican program," he concludes, implicitly invoking the CFR’s familiar role of custodian of the "bipartisan consensus."


Central American defense ministers
discuss forming security force

The creation of a regional peacekeeping force emerged last week as a key issue at a meeting of Central American defense and security ministers on how to confront threats ranging from drug trafficking to disease epidemics.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, host of the two-day meeting, said Central America is no longer beset by endless civil wars and political dictatorships that hampered the region for decades.

"I do remember when our region here was significantly more dangerous than it is today," Rumsfeld told the group. "We are working more closely together today than ever before."

Officials representing Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama attended the meeting, along with observers from Colombia and Mexico. The high-level session followed U.S. ratification in August of the Central American Free Trade Agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties to a region that is home to 41 million people and has a total gross domestic product of about $88 billion.

Guatemala's defense minister, Gen. Carlos Humberto Aldana, said the creation of the battalion-strength peacekeeping force would bring greater economic security and political stability. He suggested that it would be ratified by treaty among the Central American nations and include specific financial and personnel commitments from each.

"We want to focus on a universal soldier – a soldier of peace," Aldana said. "This will undoubtedly be the right path to take."

The force would be used for military peacekeeping missions but also for such things as rapid response to natural disasters. The U.S. military would not be directly involved but would have observer status, according to Pentagon officials.

Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, chief of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, said that questions about security and instability in Central America have contributed to a reduction in foreign investment from $100 billion to about $70 billion over a four-year period.

"Economic opportunities cannot exist in an environment so dangerous it cannot attract foreign investment," Craddock said.

The peacekeeping unit is considered a high-profile example of the integration Central American countries are seeking on a variety of fronts. Problems that affect all the region's nations - and ultimately, the United States as well - include drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegal immigration, terrorism and threats from disease.


Plans afoot to link Panama
and Toronto with direct flights

Copa Airlines, Panama's private-owned national airline, is expected to start flying to Canadian cities in the near future.

Panamanian and Canadian high-ranking officials are studying the possibility of opening a non-stop flight service between Tocumen International Airport and Toronto.

During a bilateral meeting held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Piere Pettigrew, Foreign Relations Minister of Canada, told his Panamanian counterpart, Samuel Lewis Navarro about his desire to see Panama's privately owned national airline, Copa Airlines, landing at Toronto's international airport in the near future. This, he said, would greatly benefit the cultural and tourist exchange between both countries.

Both dignataries visited Florida to participate in the meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

Pettigrew also invited Panama to join the Association of Asian Pacific States (APEC), which comprises 21 countries, including Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the United States.


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